The UK wine and spirit trade will be stronger if Britian remained in the European Union, according to a survey carried out by the WSTA.

As part of a consultation of its 300 plus members this message was endorsed by 90% of those who responded.

In a historic meeting held in the Cabinet Room at Number 10, the Prime Minister David Cameron invited the WSTA and its members to find out first-hand how important the role of exports and access to the EU is to their businesses. 

Chief Executive Miles Beale from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association opened the meeting (Wednesday, March 23rd) by thanking everyone for attending the inaugural “Drinks Cabinet”.

The PM told attendees during the course of the meeting that he enjoyed gin and came from a family of gin lovers.

The roundtable, chaired by Environment Secretary and drinks industry champion Liz Truss, brought together some of the country’s top distillers and English wine makers to discuss Government support for exports and why the vast majority of the wine and spirits industry think the UK is stronger in the EU.

In a survey of WSTA members 90% of those who responded, supported the UK’s continued membership of the EU, 2% were in favour of the UK leaving and the remainder (8%) were undecided or impartial.

During the discussions Mr Cameron asked the group of mainly SME’s about how they benefitted from EU membership and how their businesses would be affected if Britain left.

A number of topics were covered including the barriers faced when exporting out of the EU, the implications on labelling and the impact leaving would have on investors. The SME’s explained how start-up costs, particularly for wine makers, were huge and being able to attract investment and skilled labour for the industry was crucial to their realising their ambitions.

Miles Beale was also able to make the point to the PM that wine had for the fourth year running been given the worst treatment in the Budget out of all alcoholic drinks.

Duty on a bottle of wine has increased by 3p to £2.08 and for bottle of sparkling increased 4p to £2.67.

The PM told the meeting there is more government can do to try and encourage the English wine industry.

English wine makers have pledged to increase their exports tenfold from 250,000 bottles to 2.5 million bottles by 2020. And British gin exports are expected to hit £1bn for the first time by 2025.

Secretary of State, Liz Truss, summed up the meeting highlighting that it was vital Britain stayed in the EU for the WSTA members to realise it export potential:  “Free Trade deals don’t grow on trees.”

Miles Beale said:

“We are very proud to have given some of our members the opportunity to have a direct and frank discussion with the Prime Minister about how the Government can really get behind the wine and spirit industry of Great Britain. We asked them to serve British drinks at UK government events and support British business.

“Both the PM and the Secretary of State were keen to hear why the overwhelming majority of our members believe the industry will better be able to invest, grow and create jobs if the UK remains in the EU.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Britain will be stronger, safer and better off in a reformed Europe than out on our own, because we will have full participation in the free trade area, bringing in jobs, investment, lower prices and financial security. That means real certainty so you can plan the future.

“On the other hand those who want to leave Europe can’t tell you if British businesses would be able to access Europe’s free trade area; or if your job is safe, how much your prices would rise, how much your mortgage would be at risk, or if the funding for your local school or hospital is secure. They are offering you risk at a time of uncertainty. It is a leap in the dark.”


WSTA members also expressed concerns over losing the benefit of the EU’s free trade agreements with third countries, affecting the status of the UK as the world’s gateway to the EU. The potentially lengthy negotiations of bilateral agreements to replace them, not necessarily on better terms, could impact on £3.5bn worth of export trade outside the EU.

Talking after the event Tamara Roberts from Ridgeview said:

“It was an incredible honour to be invited to Number 10 and sit at the Cabinet table with the Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary. We were able to share with them our experiences of exporting and aspirations how with their help we would like to see this grow.

“We believe the UK should remain a strong voice within the EU and not relegate ourselves to the side lines.”

Co-founder of Brighton Gin Helen Chesshire said:

“What an amazing event. We were blown away to be invited into the Cabinet Room to have a chat with the PM.

“I had wanted to tell the Prime Minister that most people are out and proud in Brighton but today we are proud to be in. However he dashed off before I got the chance.”

No10 2000px

Attending the Number 10 roundtable were:

Prime Minister David Cameron

Environment Secretary Liz Truss

Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit’s Trade Association Miles Beale

WSTA European Affairs Director, Simon Stannard

WSTA International Affairs Director, Louise Foxwell

Co-founders of Brighton Gin Kathy Caton and Helen Chesshire

MD Hatch Mansfield, Patrick McGrath

CEO of Ridgeview, Tamara Roberts

Master Distiller for Beefeater Gin, Desmond Payne

City of London Distillery, Jonathan Clark

Director of Public Affairs at Pernod Ricard UK, Rick Connor

CEO of London & Scottish, Chris Parker

Founder of Half Hitch Gin, Mark Holdsworth

CEO of Chapel Down, Frazer Thompson

The WSTA survey revealed:

         90% of respondents supported the WSTA’s stance of supporting the UK’s continued membership of the EU, 2% in favour of the UK leaving and the remainder (8%) were undecided or impartial.

         91% recorded a positive impact of EU membership on the wine and spirit industry, 85% think the EU had a positive impact on their business, and 69% a positive impact on consumers. Just 9% on the industry, 6% felt it had a detrimental impact on their business and 6% on consumers.

         Among the most common concerns about leaving were: 81% felt it would create an uncertain trading environment, 81% worried about complying with EU regulations without shaping them, 81% cited customs duties and the impact on third country goods and 78% are concerned about restricted access to the common market.

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